Cathedral of Peace
By Dorothy Clapp Robinson
CAROLYN EVANS thought she was being a good wife when she worked and saved uncomplainingly. She became so absorbed in the routine of housekeeping that she failed to catch the broader vision of what a wife and mother might be. Suddenly, the knowledge is thrust upon her that she and her husband,
TURNER EVANS, are strangers mentally and spiritually. Heartsick over his neglect, she puzzles over the situation and its cause. He sees the cause clearly. Fifteen years before, she had stopped growing mentally, while he had gone on developing steadily and consistently. However, his power and influence were more evident abroad than at home. Frustrated and disappointed with the condition of his home, he has become irritable and dictatorial. He is particularly irritated with
BOB, the eldest son, because he is failing to make use of his powers. Bob is in love with June Straughn from the Elkhorn ranch but does not consider himself her equal because of the difference in their backgrounds.
CARSON, the second-born, is the uncertain quantity in the Evans home. He is straining against home ties and is threatening to leave. Bob goes to the Elkhorn to tell Mrs. Straughn his mother has reconsidered and will be a counselor to her in the Relief Society presidency. Splashing through West Fork on his horse, he is surprised to see June, also on horseback, watching his approach. They go for a ride and near the south pasture gate come upon Bob’s brother and father. Bob is surprised and greatly pleased at the gracious way his father responds to an introduction to June. Back at the Elkhorn, he oversees an intimate scene between Mr. and Mrs. Straughn which emphasizes in his mind the differences in his life and June’s. He feels he can never tell her what is in his heart. Next day, while at their meal, the Evans family hear over the radio that their father has been elected president of the State Stock Growers Association. While the children rejoice over it, Carolyn hurries to the kitchen that they may not see the misery in her eyes.
“Come help Mother.” Carolyn Evans thrust two small towels into the hands of her twin daughters. “Then you may go with me.”
“Oh, boy, boy!” Judy cried, snatching at a handful of silverware.
“Just one,” Jerry warned, setting the example by rubbing one knife long and vigorously. Judy watched her a moment.
“You take too long,” she scolded. “Hurry, or we can’t go.”
“Where are you going?’
Carolyn’s hands, which had been rapidly and efficiently shuffling dishes, came to an abrupt stop. A feeling of utter helplessness swept over her. Here was the test.
“Where are you going?”
Slowly she turned and faced her husband. He had come to the kitchen door just in time to hear Judy’s words. The determined hardness in his eyes added to her fear. Then the memory of Bob’s sarcastic “after all, mother” stiffened her resolution. she took a long breath.
“I told Mrs. Straughn I would be her counselor.”
“You – you told her that after what I said!”
Now was the time to sigh in resignation. Habit was strong. She half turned, then stopped.
“Yes, I accepted.” Nver were words formed with greater difficulty. Once they were past her lips, the next were easier. “We are helping Bishop put over a ward reunion. I am going this afternoon to visit some families who haven’t telephones.”
He laughed shortly. “Imagine! I suppose you will soon be teaching a class, too.”
Yes, she thought, it is a bit ridiculous. How can I help direct an organization? I cannot teach myself. I am too stupid. It has been years since I tried to learn. I have forgotten how to express a thought; but that look in Bob’s eyes, and Turner with his honors … This position of hers was a step in the right direction, and it had a great deal to do with her past and her future – especially her future.
“Yes, I might be doing that, too. Will you please hook Bess to the buggy?”
The silence was electric. Her lips trembled, but her chin was up. A wild thought came to her – there was admiration in Turner’s eyes. That couldn’t be. They were too cold and hard.
Then Judy finished her knife. She waved her towel. “Hurry, Daddy, or we shall be late.”
“Hurry, Daddy,” Jerry echoed. then she threw aside her towel. “I don’t want to wipe dishes. I want to go with Daddy.”
Rushing to him, she grasped one levi-clad leg between her arms.
“So do I.” Judy promptly followed suit and grasped the other leg.
“Watch out, Dumplings.” For the moment Turner transferred his attention to them. As always in like circumstances, his manner and voice were especially gentle. These twin girls were the pride of his heart. He might bully others, but they bent him to their sweet young wills.
“Hurry, then. We are going to help you.”
He glanced once more at his wife. She had turned back to her work. The situation was new and stirred a faint hope. If he aroused her stubbornness, she would probably go through with it. Mechanically he obeyed the tug at his legs.
When they were gone, Carolyn dropped weakly into a chair. Her legs refused to hold her. Through the window she could see the three headed for the pasture back of the garage. Each girl had firm hold of a long forefinger, and four short legs were trying desperately to keep pace with his long strides. Occasionally, to catch up, they would swing from his arms.
Seeing him thus, no one would suspect his power to inspire fear. Fear! For a moment Carolyn considered that. She wasn’t actually afraid of him. He would never hurt her physically. She was really afraid of a scene – afraid of a new situation, afraid of his stronger will. Bob’s words, and Kane’s, had opened her eyes. For the first time in years she caught a glimpse of herself as others might see her. The seeing was not pleasant.
“I could have gone to that convention,” she half-heartedly told herself. “I think I could have managed it. But I would have had nothing to wear.”
A special little wave of agony stabbed at her with the memory of his election. He was always in things, not only in them but of them. Only in his church he made no advancement, if holding positions could be termed advancement. She wondered about that. He had been a logical candidate for several positions in the new ward set-up. She did not know whether or not he had been asked, but his code was such that he would likely refuse because of his home conditions. Perhaps that was why he was so opposed to her accepting a position in the Relief Society. Without her he would advance even faster than he was. She had never entertained his associates, either business or church. Perhaps it would be kinder to him if she would go to Kane. Searching back through her memory, she recalled something else:
“He has never denied me anything that I insisted on having. But it is too late now to turn back. We have been traveling different roads for so long. He has hurt me too many times. I could never forget some of the cruel things he has said to me.”
Springing up, she went back to her work. The dishes were soon in their places in the cupboard. The floor was swept and her clothes changed. Still, she had not heard the buggy. She stepped to the door and looked about anxiously. Then the old sickening feeling returned. Her mind and body were swept with a paralyzing lethargy. She might have known. He had hooked Bess to the buggy and driven away. She hadn’t the faintest idea where. She dropped to the step and sat there motionless. Time and feeling were non-existent.
Gradually, insistently, thought came back and with it a slow rising anger. She looked toward the Elkhorn, and though she could not see beyond the pasture the look added to her resentment. She had come this far on a new road. She wasn’t turning back.
“You have hurt me for the last time, Turner Evans,” she said aloud. “From this minute on, I am making a life of my own.”
Once resolved, she changed quickly to walking shoes and struck south over the foot bridge. He thought he had won, probably was grinning now over his victory. Let him wait.
It was cool among the trees. When she reached her Cathedral, she sat down on the log to relax. The work ahead could not be done in this frame of mind. She must cleanse her heart of rancor. Her lips moved in prayer.
She sat and sat. Gradually the cool, tangy air, the peace crowded out the bitter, hard lump in her breast – a process which was facilitated by fifteen years of hard practice. When there was no longer any unrest or resentment in her heart, she arose and went on. Outside the fence, she took the road over which June and Bob had ridden.
Overseeing the “west eighty” was Bob’s job. The same day that Carolyn was doing her visiting he had been there, and as he rode home through the “bottoms”: he was estimating what the crop would bring.
“Dad could easily let me have enough for school,” he thought. Then later, “Carson is the one that should go to school. If Dad will send him, I will stay home this winter. I can do some extension work. If they don’t do something about him soon, it will be too late. Besides, June may not go this year.”
Something was amiss. All at once it came to him that there were no stock grazing between the trees. “I wonder if that fence is down again.”
Turning his horse, he rode about looking. It was not until he came near the east fence that he came upon some calves. Instead of lying about in the shade as was natural this time of the day, they were moving about and on his approach dashed away.
“What the dickens!” As they ran, his practiced eye counted them. One short! He’d better scout around.
Besides the calf, there was one of the yearlings missing. When he was sure they were not in the pasture, Bob reasoned, “Surely they could not have left the field without others escaping. It has been a week or two since I have seen that calf, but the yearling was here yesterday.”
He rode along the fence. At the south gate he stopped. At least one animal had gone through here today. He could see the marks in the soft dirt about the gate. Outside, he examined the tracks. He could not find them farther than the road. That was not strange, for the lane was meadow. The road was marked only by two narrow wheel tracks. Any number of animals passed along here every day. Up the road he could see Mrs. Nelson’s cows. They fed along the lane. To trace individual animals would be impossible. That did not alter the fact that two were missing.
Bob wrinkled his brow in thought. The animals had been driven out. Who could have done it without arousing suspicion? He whistled in dismay. Carson? The Semples? Could it be possible? Surely – it couldn’t be, but the evidence was there! Once before during the summer a calf had disappeared. He had helped fix up their old flivver. Recently he had bought a tire. Strange that he could have done both, but then Dad was more liberal with Carson. And Carson was always doing unexpected things. He would consider he had a right to them. If he had an accomplice, it could be done. That might be the reason he was hanging around Semples. Jed Taylor wouldn’t be above lending his truck or stock trailer. From the gate, there was no house in sight to provide a witness.
Arriving at this conclusion, Bob turned back into the field and closed the gate after him. He pushed his horse rapidly along the fence until he came again to West Fork. There was nothing wrong with the fence. He had examined every foot of it. He must keep his thought to himself until he was more sure. To let others suspect would be fatal.
As he came into the yard, Bob met his father just driving in from the west. He was in the buggy, and the twins were with him.
“Have you taken any stock out of the bottoms?’ he asked.
“No.” In the act of throwing aside the reins, Turner stopped. He tightened them instead. “Are some gone?”
“That calf Carson claimed and a yearling.”
“Is the fence down?”
“No. I rode it twice.”
The father’s short temper exploded. “Someone has left that gate down again. I’ll fix it this time so it won’t happen again.” Going into the blacksmith shop, he came out with pincers and wire. “You ride on back,” he told Bob, “and hunt them.”
As he guided Bess in and out between trees, Turner remembered he hadn’t asked Bob if many of the animals had been outside the fence. He thought when he fixed the fence that he had stopped the leak. It was darn peculiar that he had never found that other calf. There were folks who lived by the “finders keepers” motto. One of them could have picked it up, and the Cross Line Company would not question the ownership of a calf offered them for sale, if the price was low enough.
At the gate he found the shovel Bob had forgotten. He put it in the buggy and after wiring the gate turned Bess back toward home. They passed the cottonwood grove, and a deep, potent anger rose in him. Instantly, all thoughts of the lost stock were gone. Why was it that for so long he had not been able to reach Carolyn physically, mentally or spiritually?
Once her world had centered about him. Now their paths never touched. In power and influence he was growing; his election proved that. But he thought, “It has a bitter taste. What potency is there in power or position when there is no one with whom to share it? None of it is worth one hour of loving, understanding companionship.”
Their first years had been hard. He, undoubtedly, had laid too much stress on saving, but Carolyn should have been the judge of her limit. She should have made her own estimate of values. And didn’t she know their hard years were behind them? She seemed not to think. She was in a stagnant pool mentally and was making no effort to escape. This grove had been her door of ingress, lulling her senses. The harder he pulled the other way the farther in she went. There was no meeting place in sight.
“Sit still,” he said sharply, as Judy leaned over the back of the buggy seat.
She looked at him in astonishment, and her lips puckered.
“Daddy,” Jerry reproached him, “she wasn’t getting over. She was seeing if our flowers are dead.”
“Forgive me, sweet. I was afraid you would fall.”
Instantly, both were smothering him with embraces. “You are the best Daddy in the world,” Jerry informed him, “but you must not speak naughty to us as you do to Mama.”
“Out of the mouths of babes,” he thought, and then in self-justification, “Mama doesn’t kiss me.” If she didn’t, it was his fault, but she irritated him so. Had she been much different when they were married, or had he just thought she was? Perhaps not so different, but a man married a woman not alone for what she was but for what she might become. Whatever the cause, they were up to their necks in this terrible quagmire. Yes, he was in it. In spite of his seeming advance, he knew his was not the rounded, forward advance it should be. He could go ahead so much more satisfactorily if he were free of this frustration. He would never accept responsibility in his church and try to govern others until he had found the way to govern his own.
When Carolyn returned to the gate after making her visits, she was hurrying. It was nearly supper time, and she must get home before the men came in. She had walked miles, and she was not at all tired. She felt exhilarated, freshened. That might be the reason Turner liked to get out among people. She had been so surprised that these women, neighbors really, had so much to give her.
Young Pearl Grover, for instance, had shown that a home could be built with very little money. Her nimble fingers were building beauty in the house and out of it – and Carolyn knew she was building it even more effectively in her heart. Pearl had spoken of Turner as if being his wife should be regarded as a privilege. He had so many times come to their rescue with encouragement, or with the loan of a few dollars to tide them over a crisis.
Little Mrs. Nelson, who was so handicapped yet so cheerful, supported herself and found time to help Pearl when the younger girl was over-burdened with responsibilities. Mrs. Semple, forced by circumstances to keep house for an unappreciative brother, had time to study. Carolyn’s attitude toward her had changed completely. She was trying, in the best way she knew, to keep her girls under control. If they were a little rowdy or over-emphasized their good times, it was a mistake in method, not intent. She did not, however, encourage Carolyn to come again.
Oh, yes, and she must not forget to tell the men that she had caught a glimpse of that brindle calf of Carson’s running with others, as she went up the lane to Semple’s.
She had had to wade the river, but that had been fun. She had forgotten how she had once loved the feel of running water over her feet. Once she had loved to fish. when they had first moved up here, she had often put on a pair of Turner’s overalls and followed him up an down the river. She could even remember how he had laughed because she looked so ridiculously small in them. Turner could say such beautiful things then.
At the gate Carolyn stopped short. It was wired shut. Who could have done that? She had to crawl through the fence, and in doing so she tore her dress on a barb.
“The only decent thing I had,” she fumed, irritably. “And it can’t be fixed. Who in the world wired that gate?”
Then at her feet she saw the answer. Tracks of a buggy showed in the dust between clumps of grass. All the pleasant thoughts of the moment before were gone in a flash.
“Why should I have just one dress?” she demanded angrily. Then, in surprise, she asked again, “Why should I?”
Without in the least realizing it, Carolyn had turned a milestone. The events of the last few days, the hurt of it all, the stimulation of today and perhaps something long interred had integrated and became suddenly a fighting spirit. She would make someone take notice. She wasn’t sure just who.